Monday 4 May 2009

"Polish Jews" Destroyed Babylon?

Qais Hussein Rashid, the acting director of the board of antiquities suggested that “Jews stationed with the Polish troops” might have been behind the recent damage caused to the ancient site of Babylon when a military base was built over it, and that they might have “deliberately singled out the site because of their captivity in Babylon” (Steven Lee Myers, Babylon Ruins Reopen in Iraq, to Controversy, New York Times May 2, 2009).

Well a minister of a government put in place precisely as a result of the 2003 invasion might try to think before he speaks to journalists in such an ignorant manner about the motivations of those soldiers.

Rashid should know that at the height of the 2003 campaign, Poland had 2500 troops in Iraq. According to the 2002 census there are just 1133 Jews in Poland today, that’s 29 in every million inhabitants – which makes them fifteenth down the list in ethnic minorities in Poland – below Germans (and 'Silesians'), Belorussians, Ukranians, Roma (Gypsies), Russians, Ruthenian groups, Lithuanians, Slovaks, Vietnamese, French, Americans, Greeks and Italians. So it’s pretty easy to work out that statistically there may have been a Jew or two in Poland’s army in 2003-8, hardly enough to influence the placement of military installations (which as regards Babylon, in any case the Poles took over from the US army) and be the brunt of Mr Rashid’s reported ignorant anti-semitic conspiracy theory.

It was just such a ridiculous thing to say. People in charge of heritage cannot afford to make such statements. It calls into question their competence to make any kind of informed judgement on heritage issues.

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